After a winter’s hard graft, involving many training sessions on a cold winter’s night at MES, gym work and fitness tests, we headed to La Manga feeling prepared, ready and very very excited for some nice weather.
Whilst we’ve already automatically qualified for the global qualifiers in September, we view these ICC Europe Qualifiers not just as a great opportunity to execute our plans that we’ve been working hard on over the months, but also to assert our dominance over our European counterparts, and to make a good showing for ourselves as we seek to improve further as a cricketing nation.
We departed Bristol airport bright and early on Monday morning and arrived in a gloriously sunny Alicante. An hour and a half’s silent bus journey away (our driver did not care for Shakira), we arrived at the resort and got settled before dinner and an early night.
I’m rooming with fellow seamer Megan McColl. Megs is new to the senior squad and has put in some impressive performances thus far, playing with a maturity far beyond her 18 years, despite the fact she still looks about 12.
A few things I have learned about Megan thus far:
1. She is insistent upon defending her hometown of Arbroath (“Arbroath isn’t actually THAT bad”) despite the fact no one ever comments on it.
2. She has the inability to turn a light off after she leaves a room.
Tuesday morning saw us head to the ground to get our bearings and to ease ourselves in with a solid 2 hour training session. We utilised the time we had well to ensure we got out of the session what we needed. It consisted of activation with our German coach Hans (more on him later), 3 blocks of net sessions on the turf wickets and a group fielding session.
Activation is a delight, led by our exuberant, flamboyant coach Hans (who also goes by the name Peter Ross in another life). Hans is a big fan of Eric Prydz – Call On Me. I will leave you to visualise what our warm ups look like although fortunately no 80s Lycra is involved.
We’re really strict about making sure we prepare ourselves right since we’ve had so much cricket this summer, and the need to prevent niggles is key. Activation done, we moved into match scenarios in the nets; the bowlers focused on executing their variation balls whilst the batters worked on making sure they were confidently hitting their strong areas.
This was followed by group fielding, where we split into the boundary riders and ring fielders. It feels like the squad is really getting to a good place, with clear roles appearing and it’s testament to the work Knoxy has done in cultivating a squad not just for now but on into the future.
The facilities at La Manga are top notch and it was good to get going in preparation for the big week ahead. There’s a real buzz about the squad, with some good banter on the go (I use the term banter loosely).
With training session numero uno complete, we were allowed the afternoon off. I’ve just had a season off, and in that time, quite a few of my old mates have disappeared (babies, weddings, playing for England etc etc), so pre-tour I was a bit curious as to how I’d be spending my down time.
I’d like to think I get on with everyone, however, the young ones seem to have taken me under their wing which is pretty nice. And they laugh at my jokes which feeds the old ego. So, me and the kids spent our afternoon off having a lazy lunch at the famous Si bar and managed to catch some of the England vs Australia ODI.
Wednesday arrived and with it, game day.
We pride ourselves on how we prepare for match days, with our set routines in place to allow us to be ready to go the minute the umpires walk on to the field.
Playing in their first T20I, Germany were an unknown quantity to us. Despite this, we were completely focused on executing our own game plan, knowing that if we did so, we’d be putting ourselves in the best possible chance of a victory.
It was a big moment for us as a team as the game was being live-streamed. This is the first time we’ve had this done, and is testament to the huge strides being made in women’s cricket at the moment. With news that 400K on average had watched the euro men’s qualifiers in Guernsey last week, we knew that we had a big opportunity to showcase our skills.
Personally I started this game as 12th. It’s never nice to not make the playing 11 but having run drinks in that heat I definitely reckon it’s harder. It was also nice of my team mates to conduct their wicket celebrations on the furthest side of the square from the changing rooms. Cheers guys.
However, this was not my first rodeo and there was not going to be any dehydrated cats on my watch. Moving on…
The first innings went as close to plan as could be. Like postmen, they always deliver and some tight bowling up front from Brycey and Scholesy built a great deal of pressure, from which Maqsood capitalised on to take the first wicket, leaving the score 12-1 after 6 overs. Regular wickets fell including a blistering spell from Chatterji (3-5 off 4) and clinical bowling from Maqsood (2-3 off 4) to leave the Germans 37-8 off their 20 overs.
A clinical run chase ensued with our resident gun Sarah Bryce seeing us through with 18 not out. Whilst ideally we’d have liked to have done it zero wickets down, we were off the mark with a convincing win under our belts. Game one, job done.
After lunch, we were faced with a team we know very well – the Dutch. We were well aware of their strengths and potential weaknesses and had our game plans in place to ensure we made it 2 wins from 2. Brycey won her second toss of the day and inserted Holland in to bat. Due to some loose bowling and some missed chances, they got off to a racing start and were 47 for no loss in the 6th over before Chatterji struck to remove the dangerous Siegers.
Some tighter bowling helped to build some pressure and we were rewarded one ball after drinks, with Chatterji taking the catch off my bowling to send young gun Kalis back to the pavilion (Thanks Naz).
Hard-hitter Veringmeier soon followed and we were well and truly back in the game. Wickets started to fall more regularly, and a tight final over from McGill including 2 wickets and a run out meant that we had restricted Holland to 123-8 off their 20 overs.
We felt we’d pulled this back well after the start the Dutch got and knew that we were well and truly in the game if we committed to our plans. Our run chase didn’t get off to the best start with Jack caught at mid-wicket early on followed by a sharp stumping to remove our skipper. Some tight bowling and fielding from the Dutch was counter-attacked with some great shot selection from Glen before an unfortunate mix-up between her and Chatterji resulted in the former heading back to the shed.
We never really got going and found the run rate creeping higher and higher. 4 overs left, we needed 33 runs with 5 wickets in hand. In the end, we lost by only 7 runs and were left to rue the missed chances in the field, extras we bowled or 1s that we didn’t convert into 2s.
After a cool down and pool recovery session, we enjoyed a team meal in one of the apartments, with our fantastic manager Sue prepping the most incredible spread of pastas, salads, pizza and antipasto, and coach Knoxy and physio Bruce manning the BBQ. It was a nice end to a disappointing day, and an early night was needed by all to allow us to recover well in time for our next game.
Can I also just give a special shoutout to our physio Bruce? He’s hilarious. Not only does he mend us, he always drives us to and from the ground and it’s much appreciated by us all. I’m not sure if he does any proper work but he’s funny so he can stay.
With the chance to gain revenge against the Dutch tomorrow, we’re going to work hard to right any wrongs and bounce back to get us right back in the frame for winning these qualifiers. On behalf of the squad, I’d like to thank everyone for their support back home – it does not go unnoticed and we massively appreciate it. We will keep striving to make you all proud.
Until next time, Sam.